- Working title: Cod
- Story: The First Rhash
- Auxiliary: Prehistoric Commerce, Myth Development
- Summary: Friends divided in ambition and dreams.:
"Father, have a bite," Our'a shoved a flake of steamed cod into the dying man's mouth.
"How does it tastes?" asked Our'a.
"Divine." Our'a's father died. He was only 30 years old. He died of starvation.
___________ Rothaur was born in the land of Firsthome, when the citrus and olive trees grew in the hills and the salmon and cod fed in the coasts. Athysa his mother died in childbirth, for Rothaur's will to live was so strong that his life overwhelmed her. Such is the fate of Rothaur, and his father Sarted, who had to raise him in widowhood and living his old age in solitude.
His father Sarted was the chieftain of the tribe of Fral, that is Fish. They were a people who depended on the sea for their livelihood. Thus, they worship the Sea and its Abundance and the Son of the Sea that is Fish. Fral was given the raiment of the Cod, and dressed in a fishmail of glittering scales. The Wicked Spear was sacred to Fral. And that same shape of the Wicked Spear was used by the Fral-people to fish by the sea.
Rothaur was born in a good year. The cod shoals were so many that they almost leaped into the fisher boats willingly. The grapefruit and vine were laden with fruits, and the soil was actually soaked in their juices. It was a good year indeed. But last year and the year before weren't that bad either. But the coming years were years of pestilence and rot.
Sarted remembered his fathers and brothers didn't always live by the sea. His grandfather Amlecar used to tell his cousins and siblings how the People wandered in the trees and hills. In the shadows of the trees and holes of the hills were lived the monsters that fed on them. They had no name for these shadow-creatures, save Terror and Fear. They would yell the Terror has come, when the People encounter one of them.
And, so the People has to flee the Trees, cross the Hills, and come upon the Sea. It was by the Sea they discovered the sweetness of the Cod. They called this land of the Cod Firsthome, for here they found safety. For a while, they don't know why the Terror did not follow. But they soon discovered the Terror were afraid of water.
____________ "Our'a!" Rothaur held his hands. It's been 80 years since his mother died. But in the reckoning of the Raum, that is the People, he is merely in the dawn of his youth.
"Our'a!" Rothaur kneeled by his friend's bed. The hands in his were frail and thin, and his cheeks sunken. "Our'a! You must eat. You must bury your father. It's been two months you've been in your house with your father's corpse. This cannot be!"
Rothaur dragged his friend out of the bed of straw.
"The fresh air and open sky will cure your despair," said Rothaur. But Our'a struggled with what little strenght he has in him.
"I will not leave you like this! I swam into the Deep, and scoured the Hills for food to feed you and all that is left of the tribe."
"Leave me alone! Fral has forsaken us! Father has forsaken me. Leave me to die!"
"Blasphemy! Fral does not forsake His children!" Rothaur managed to get him out of the door. He then tied his friend's legs with his hunting rope. He cut the heart out of the dead deer he hunted in the woods. He shoved the heart into Our'a's mouth.
"The best part of the deer. Feed!"
"A warrior's part. I'm no warrior. Let me go!"
"You've taken the heart before. Eat it!"
Our'a lay down, and looked at the corpse of the deer. He wept.
"I am no more a warrior than that stag."
"The Terror grips everyone. No one blames you for not braving the Trees."
"But you did not stagger! You went into the Trees so many times. The tribe is beginning to talk you know."
"What did they say?"
"That you befriended the Terror. Your game is cursed."
"I don't hear them complain every forthnight I return with venison and wolfmeat."
"Then why weren't you taken by the Terror? Why are you not afraid of the shadows?"
"I was hungry enough."
"What about the Terror?"
Rothaur was quiet. He went back to slaughter the deer.
"Don't waste it. Eat."
t's been a week after Rothaur had revived Our'a from his despair and confinement. The tribe gathered by the river, which flows into the sea a mile ahead. For the past year, they had gathered on this opening by the river for food rationing and funerary rites so frequently. Rothaur began to count the remaining heads of his tribes. One. Two. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. Twenty-three. Twenty-three. It stuck there. Twenty-third was a frail little girl. Her fur had all but fallen. Ribcage visible. Eyes sunken. She could hardly stand, and was always sleepy. Death is more than an acquaintance to her now. Twenty-three. When Rothaur was born, there were four hundred.
"Rothaur, we've decided!" said a fellow tribesman. "My family and I will move north." He was a tall Fralrau. His pelt was of tan hues. He would have been a handsome one if not for the lack of food. More than a half of the tribe said they will undergo the northerly journey.
"No! We move east!" Rothaur said with a soprano intonation, loud and kingly. The sun was setting behind the eastern snowcapped mountains. He pointed at them. "We shall move near to the woods. We follow against the river."
The gathering looked at their young chief in horror. All of them know about the Terror that lurks in the shadows of the trees. Most of them had never seen one, for they were young. Those who once lived in the trees had died of old age, and the more recent starvation. But they kept those old tales at heart, well memorized and embedded in their minds, exactly the elders wanted them to be. Remember the Terror, terribly, for terribly they devoured us.
Rothaur's tail swept the grass with an anger, and said to them, "There is no Terror in the woods! Have faith in me, for I will not allow you to be in harm's way. You've seen the meat I brought back. There is food there you don't even need to fish or hunt. The food will come to you instead."
"Ridiculous!" said that same man. "The Terror has taken you! You bring cursed meat! Fral will deny us our rebirth as people. I say it is your meat that brought us this curse! And now you're tempting us into oblivion!"
"Urfas, you wag your tongue with a brain starved! You've been not eating the meat I brought back, and fed yourself and family with fruits and roots. Can't you see your wife and son are crossing the Great Divide!"
Indeed, Urfas' wife and 40-year old son were more pale and shed more fur than anyone in the tribe. Their eyes were yellow and lips and noses were parched from diarrhoea. The Raum must consume meat in order to gain strength and to live into ripe old age.
"I rather have my family cross the Divide with clean souls, and buy rebirth in return. You defoul us with your unrightly gotten meat, and curse us! Father Fral will feed your soul into the gapping jaws of the Abyss!"
"So be it. Those who wish to go east, follow me," Rothaur carried the Fral's Spear, his father's sword and an axe. He walked towards the setting sun. The Raum have no problem seeing in the darkness of night. A nightly journey will not deter them.
"Surrender the Wicked Spear!," Urfas walked with wide gaits towards Rothaur, "It is holy to the true children of Fral. Give it to me!"
Rothaur threw the Spear at his feet. Urfas snarled at him as he bent to pick up the hallowed weapon. He then bade his family and all those who will follow him to go north.
Four men, three women and the twenty-third, who was that girl, followed Rothaur. Our'a was divided in his path at first. Our'a looked at Rothaur, hoping he would not go so quick. Rothaur threw back a cold glance at him as he walked.
"Rothaur," Our'a whispered to himself. Our'a picked up his fishing spear and tail, and walked in the steps of Rothaur.
The remainder thirteen followed Urfas to the north, figuring that all things that came out from the east and south were cursed by the Terror.
"Our'a!" Huor called him from behind as they followed their chief walking west. Huor was younger than Our'a by 30 years. Our'a was only 60, so Huor was very much a young boy. As he panted from sprinting, "Our'a do you think the chief will mean us no harm?"
Our'a looked at his own walking feet, as the group marched on for the fifth day now. All the while, they've been walking by the banks of the river, against its flow. The river cut a across the hilly plains, and it was red with the light of the setting sun.
Our'a said, "I must have faith in him."
"But can't you say it for us as well?" Guor gave a worried look. His tan pelt was much darker and dirtier than Our'a's. Guor fell on the ground more often than anyone else in the group. "We've been walking for five days now. I'm asking it for my parents too. They are way too old for this."
Our'a turned his head around. He saw a 120-year old man and woman who looked like 400-year old each. Their fur actually fell off in lumps as they struggled on. They'd no meat, they'd not wash and even rested. They were starved both in mind and body.
"I'll tell the chief about this," Our'a approached Rothaur.
_______ In the beginning, the Raum lived a wandering life in a great woodland country. If you stand on top of the tallest tree, you'll see the snowcapped mountains in the east, the sea in the west. There is no snowy winter here, but only the cool drafts that blew occassionally from the cold north. Wild boars and deer were plentiful as this vast woods offered many hiding places and shrubs for them to eat. And the Raum were contented. Until an unknown terror chased them out of the woods, and even the hills in the plain. The Terror only stopped chasing, when the People were cornered at the mouth of a river. There they found fish were plentiful, and they built a fishing village. They called it Firsthome, as they wandered no more.
The elders were careful not to describe the face of the Terror, saying it is too horrible to remember. It was safe to say that it was an immense dark creature that fed on the flesh and soul of theirs. And, only theirs for it hungers for nothing else.
That's the most ancient tale of the Raum.
But soon they'd to leave Firsthome. For the fish that had once flourished in that place had gone. Firsthome grew to be too large. There were too many people. As starvation persisted, the Raum did horrible, terrible things to each other of which I'm afraid to describe for the monstrosity they'd committed were too horrible to retell. But at the end of all these cruelties they'd done to one another, Firsthome dwindled into a few dozens. That was the last of Fisher-people, or the Fralraum. The last and greatest chief of Firsthome, Rothaur, led them out of the desolate sea to undergo a return journey back to their woodland country. Back not to reclaim what to be their ancestral heritage, but an advancement, a progress for his people that were about to be doomed if not for his innovation.